by Patrick Hoffman on 01/01/11 at 02:16 PM ET
As the New York Rangers enter 2011, it appears that they are on a similar path that they have been on all season long.
The path I am talking about is one where the Blueshirts put together this two to three game winning streaks and then come out in the third or fourth game with a stinker of an effort, thus ending the winning streak.
The team cannot afford to do that tonight as they take on the second place Tampa Bay Lightning (tied for second in the East and first in the Southeast with the Washington Capitals). The Lightning are led by the likes of Steven Stamkos (31-25-56), Martin St. Louis (16-34-50), Ryan Malone (10-20-30), a now healthy Vinny Lecavalier, and head coach Guy Boucher, who has done a terrific job in making the Lightning a playoff-calibre hockey team.
The Rangers have not beaten the Lightning this season in two opportunities so tonight will be a good chance for the Blueshirts to show what kind of hockey club they really are. Based on the standings, the Rangers have the eighth best record in the National Hockey League and are a serious contender in the Eastern Conference.
With that said, however, there is still a long ways to go before April and based on seasons’ past, the month of January has usually hurt the Blueshirts. This January once again presents a tough talent for the Rangers as they will be playing teams such as the Lightning, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, Atlanta Thrashers and the Washington Capitals.
As such, it is important that the Rangers pick up two points when they can when they take on teams such as the Florida Panthers (2), Toronto Maple Leafs, and Carolina Hurricanes. Even those teams are not guaranteed wins but they are games where the Blueshirts should have a good chance to win.
The month of January begins tonight and as always, it will be important that the Rangers start it off on the right foot.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.